Our time at language school is about over. We are returning to Soddo this Saturday so we’re wrapping up our temporary life here in Addis. I’ve learned a lot in the last three months and not all of it has been Amharic. But, since Amharic was the main reason we came, I’ll start with that. I’ve now heard from a couple of people in the linguistics world that Amharic is one of the top five hardest languages for English-speakers to learn. I’ll agree that it’s difficult! In addition to the obvious challenges of a different alphabet and essentially no commonality with English (except a few imported words), the grammar is both intensive and very different. To illustrate, I’ll share an example from a textbook I’m working through. The exercise calls for the following to be translated:


Literally, it means this: “of-Islam religion getting drunk the-one-that-permits religion is?” We would best understand the sentence as, “Is the Islamic religion a religion that permits getting drunk?” Words in Amharic are routinely modified with multiple prefixes and suffixes. Many times a word may actually have multiple suffixes added on top of each other. Then the word order is often completely reversed from what we are used to in the English language. As I puzzle through written sentences, if I find I can’t figure it out, it often helps to just work through the sentence backwards. Doing this while listening to someone speak is monumentally more difficult!

Well, the good news is that it’s possible. Becca and I have been very happy to see the progress we’ve made in the last few months. We can limp through some simple conversations and can often get the point across when we need to. Now it’s a matter of practicing and building upon the skills we’ve learned. I mentioned to Becca that, conversationally, we’re at about the level of “caveman” Amharic. It isn’t pretty but we can often get thoughts back and forth. I’m actually pretty excited about caveman Amharic… it’s a huge step forward. Now we need to put forth the time and effort to refine it. My dream is “redneck” Amharic.

As the days tick by before returning to Soddo, I’ve felt the fear and anxiety building. The whole time we’ve been here, there have been constant emails about the various issues of the hospital. And there have been some doozies. There will certainly be challenges awaiting me at my return. All the while I’m keenly aware of my inadequacy to do all that is required of me. There are so many needs and threats right now and I feel very young and green. God is using these fears to drive me deep into His word and close to His side. I would like to share some verses with you and how they are sustaining me.

Psalms 119:25, 27-28, 31-32: “My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word… Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on your wonders. My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your word… I cling to Your testimonies; O Lord, do not put me to shame! I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart.”

God knows I’m weak and cannot accomplish the tasks before me in my own strength. But He will revive me and strengthen me through His word. I don’t have the space here to try to explain the arguments behind the Bible’s authenticity and inerrancy, but it really is from God. What an amazing gift that we so often neglect. It sustains because it leads us into Him. One promise from the above verses that greatly encourages me is the last comment: “I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart.” I don’t have the heart for this but God will make it bigger, and through that I will be able to run His way.

1 Peter 5:6-7, 10-11: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you… After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen”

If God is both all-powerful and all-good, He is worthy of complete trust. There are those who doubt one or both of those tenants. Sometimes it is doubted explicitly and openly but, more commonly, people doubt it in the way I tend to drift. We show our doubt implicitly when we live in fear and anxiety. God may be all-powerful but maybe He’s not all that good. Or God may be completely good but He must not be all that powerful. Certainly, if either is untrue we have a big problem. The good news is neither is untrue. I can humble myself under His control and it will be OK. He loves me and I can relinquish my anxiety to Him. And, after I’ve suffered for “a little while”, He will complete what He started and I will know victory. I fully interpret “a little while” to mean “this lifetime”, but that’s OK. The life that is coming far surpasses this one.

Psalms 16:11: “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

God knows what He is doing. He will show me where He wants me to go and lead me to what He wants me to do. This means joy, not fear.

Psalms 116:12-13: “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.”

When I think about what God has lavished upon me, it overwhelms me. He has been unbelievably generous and merciful to one who deserved none of it. And the greatest of these gifts was the death of Jesus on the cross. What appropriate response could I possibly offer to such unmerited love? Indeed, what can I offer at all? I love the imagery of this verse. I can imagine sitting at the banquet table someday; the one Jesus talked about after His return. I can imagine raising the cup of my salvation, the one I didn’t earn but was freely given to me, and making a joyful, celebratory toast to Him, calling on His name. I believe my appropriate response to Him for all He has done is to joyfully celebrate Him.

I pray that God would penetrate my heart with these truths; that they would become solid realities and not merely ideas. If they are fully grasped, it wonderfully frees me to do what He wants me to do. It would allow me to fully and earnestly engage the world around me as a servant of almighty God; but I don’t have to do it with worry and anxiety. All the while I know to Whom I belong and to where I’m going. In the end, He sets the terms of my successes and He alone gets to grade me. And He is the very one who is with me and guiding me.

I’ve occasionally daydreamed what it would be like to go back in time and redo high school or college or something with all the knowledge I have now. How cool it would be to live without the anxiety of whether or not it would turn out OK. Is this not what is possible right now? Granted I haven’t actually seen the future, but God has told me the outcome. How much do I believe it?

Please understand I’m still a long way from having this figured out in my heart. I’m still struggling to maintain the same heart and hope in the streets of Ethiopia that I have on my knees with an open Bible. Putting it into practice is truly where the rubber meets the road. Thank you all for your prayers and know that they are being heard.